Building the World

January 21, 2021
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CITIES: WASHINGTON, D.C.

“Presidential Inauguration 1905.” Library of Congress, image.

Washington, D.C., setting of two distinctly disparate 2021 events on 6 January and 20 January, was designed for public gatherings in wide open spaces. Major Pierre L’Enfant, born in France but an ardent supporter of the American Revolutionary War who volunteered to serve in the Corps of Engineerings of the Continental Army, met George Washington and proposed himself as the designer of the country’s new capital. In L’Enfant’s vision, wide avenues would radiate from the house of Congress and the house of the President. L’Enfant sketched 15 open spaces for gatherings and monuments: L’Enfant stated that open spaces were as important as buildings.

Washington Mall, site of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech of 1963, and of 200,000 flags heralding the Biden-Harris Inauguration of 2021. Image: “National Mall, Washington, D.C.” wikimedia.

L’Enfant may have been influenced by the design of a renovated Paris, France, by George-Eugène Haussmann, who enlarged the boulevards for two reasons: better air circulation to lessen the spread of viral disease, and large public gathering spaces. Paris still benefits from these two reasons, as does Washington.

“L’Enfant’s Plan of Washington, D.C., 1887.” National Register of Historic Places: 97000332. Image: Library of Congress.

L’Enfant ‘s grand vision was almost lost. Apparently there was a dispute, and L’Enfant fled the city with the detailed plans. Enter Benjamin Banneker. Bannekar, who had attended a one-room school while studying independently with this grandmother, was known for mathematical brilliance when he came to work with Major Andrew Ellicott as a surveyor to establish the District of Columbia’s official capital borders.

Benjamin Banneker, from Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum. Wikimedia.

Among Banneker’s considerable talents was a photo-perfect memory. L’Enfant’s design was imprinted on the surveyor’s mind and, according to some reports, soon reproduced for completion by Benjamin Banneker.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture site, in Washington, D.C., is within an area now named Benjamin Banneker Park. Banneker also wrote an almanac, with an inaugural publication entitled: Benjamin Banneker’s Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanack and Ephemeris, for the Year of Our Lord 1792. Banneker corresponded with Thomas Jefferson, and published abolitionist material advocating a vision in part realized, in the capital he helped design, with the inauguration of Barack Obama on 20 January 2009, and 20 January 2021, the inauguration day of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Washington, D.C., joins a small group of designed cities in history. Baghdad was created from a drawing of three concentric circles etched by sword in the sand. Abuja, Nigeria’s new capital, was influenced by Haussman’s Paris, as well as Washington, D.C., and Brasília was the first city designed to be seen from the air, and shaped like an airplane when seen from that vantage point. Capital cities are an iconic kind of urban center, embodying ideals of government and national values. In The New Science of Cities (2013), Michael Batty proposed that we see cities as systems of networks and flows. Arnold Toynbee, in Cities of Destiny, stated that cities, led with vision, may become incubators of art, culture, and science.

As Washington, D.C., takes on a new character in 2021, encouraged by inaugural address values of respect and unity, and led by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, how might L’Enfant’s and Banneker’s design give what Lawrence Durrell called the “spirit of place” to a new spirit of nation?

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala D. Harris. inaugurated in Washington, D.C., on 20 January 2021. 

Batty, Michael. The New Science of Cities. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780262019521

Bedini, Silvio A. The Life of Benjamin Banneker. Rancho Cordova, CA: Landmark Enterprises, 1984.

Durrell, Lawrence. Spirit of Place: Letters and Essays on Travel. edited by Alan G. Thomas. Open Road: Integrated Media.

Keene, Louis. “Benjamin Banneker: The Black Tobacco Farmer Who Presidents Couldn’t Ignore.” White House Historical Association.

National Museum of African American History & Culture. “The NMAAHC Museum Site,” https://nmaahc.si.edu/nmaahc-museum-site.

Reston, Maeve. “Biden: ‘Democracy has prevailed.'” 20 January 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/20/politics/joe-biden-presidential-inauguration/index.html

Tan, Shelly, Youjin Shin, and Danielle Rinder. “How one of American’s ugliest days unraveled inside and outside the Capitol.” 9 January 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/interactive/2021/capitol-insurrection-visual-timeline/

Toynbee, Arnold. editor. Cities of Destiny. London: Thames & Hudson, 1967.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

 

February 6, 2020
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T-MEC: What’s in a Name?

Naming and framing the new agreement shared by Canada, United States, and Mexico. Image: wikimedia.

Finding common ground among nations joining in regional agreements is difficult enough: policies on issues from food to energy to trade must be deliberated. And then, there’s the name. While the “New Nafta,” launched 29 January 2020, was named top-down as USMCA (US-Mexico-Canada-Agreement) in the United States, Mexico took an inclusive approach. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known popularly as AMLO, announced a naming contest on Twitter. According to Dr. Amrita Bahri, co-chair of the WTO Chair Program for Mexico and Professor of Law, ITAM University, and Guillermo Moad Valenzuela, of International Trade Law, ITAM University, the naming contest stated four criteria:

NAMING AND FRAMING:

Name similar to the English and French versions;

Name begins with the letter “T” as in Tratado;

Name is easily pronounceable in Spanish;

Name reflects the spirit of cooperation.

On Twitter, Mexico received hundreds of suggestions, selecting two finalists for adoption: TEUMECA (Tratado Estados Unidos México Canadá) or T-MEC (Tratado México Estados Unidos Canadá). The winner, T-MEC, contains a review provision in six years. Perhaps the parties learned that lesson from the Colorado River Compact, when a failure to define all parties’ water rights resulted in subsequent lawsuits. Mexico and the Navajo sued and were awarded water rights with sovereignty not granted to American states. In T-MEC, Mexico specifically reserved “Direct, inalienable, and imprescriptible ownership of hydrocarbons” (chapter 8).

Regions may be the new nations. Viewed from space, the world shows no lines as seen on maps; instead, we observe that linked land shares common resources. Recognizing dual values of inclusion and diversity, how should we frame, and name, future agreements on shared resources?

Bahri, Amrita and Guillermo Moad Valenzuela. “A new name for NAFTA: USMCA, TEUMECA or T-MEC?” 15 October 2018. El Universal. https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/english/new-name-nafta-usmca-teumeca-or-t-mec/

ACEUM text: https://www.international.gc.ca/trade-commerce/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/cusma-aceum/text-texte/toc-tdm.aspx?lang=fra

CUSMA text: https://www.international.gc.ca/trade-commerce/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/cusma-aceum/index.aspx?lang=eng

T-MEC text: https://www.gob.mx/t-mec/acciones-y-programas/textos-finales-del-tratado-entre-mexico-estados-unidos-y-canada-t-mec-202730

USMCA text: http://www.sice.oas.org/Trade/USMCA/USMCA_ToC_PDF_e.asp

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

October 19, 2019
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SPACE: Milestones of Inclusion

Koch and Meir made history, October 2019. Image:nasa.gov.

Working together outside the International Space Station, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history on October 18, 2019 in the first all-female spacewalk. As they switched to extravehicular mobility units (spacesuits or EMUs),one noted the suit had a part with the exact same serial number as the gear famously worn 35 years ago by the first American woman, Kathryn Sullivan, on October 11, 1984. The very first woman to walk in space, on July 25, 1984, was Svetlana Savitskaya. Other women spacewalkers include: Kathryn Thornton, Linda Godwin, Tammy Jernigan, Susan Helms, Peggy Whitson, Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper, Sunita William, Nicole Stott, Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Kate Rubins, and Ann McClain. (Pearlman 2019) The first American woman in space was Sally Ride: there is a spot on the moon named after this pioneer.

The year 2019 saw another space milestone, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first human step onto the moon as a pinnacle achievement of the NASA Apollo Program. According to present-day NASA, “We could very well see the first person on Mars be a woman. I think that could very well be a milestone,” commented NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. (Weitering 2019)

In 2016, NASA created the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Special Emphasis Program to foster an inclusive environment. Astronaut Sally Ride, and the first American woman to go into space in 1983, might be an inspiration. Sam Long, science teacher at Standley Lake High School, Westminster, Colorado, has entered the “Out Astronaut” campaign competition; the winner will receive training in the Advanced PoSSUM Academy at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (Goodland 2019) PoSSUM – Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere – is the only crewed suborbital research program; citizen scientists will study noctilucent (night-shining) clouds in space, especially observing ties to climate change.

Noctilucent (“night shining” clouds, Estonia. Image: wikimedia.

Meanwhile, Koch and Meir, upon the historic successful completion their spacewalk achievement will offer a news conference from orbit.  Tune in on Monday 21 October 2019 at noon EDT for their live news conference.

For more:

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “Immersive science education for tomorrow’s astronautics professionals.” ADVANCED PoSSUM SPACE ACADEMY, held each spring and fall. Application: https:/form.jotform.us/50905749649166.

Goodland, Marianne. “Colorado man hopes to be first transgender astronaut in space.” 15 July 2019. Colorado Politics. https://www.coloradopolitics.com/news/colorado-man-hopes-to-be-first-transgender-astronaut-in-space/article_025a5a60-a729-11e9-b6c8-b3781502e5f4.

NASA.gov. “In-Space News Conference to Review First All-Woman Spacewalk.” Christina Koch and Jessica Meir,, news conference from obit, Noon, EDT, Monday, 21 October 2019. Tune in at: https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

NASA. gov. “LGBTQ Special Emphasis. https://www.nasa.gov/offices/odeo/LGBTQ-special-emphasis.

Out Astronaut: Empowering the LGBTQ Community in Science and Space. “Out Astronaut Contest.” https://outastronaut.org/contest/

Pearlman, Robert Z. “First All-Female Spacewalk Has Link to First US Woman to Walk in Space.” 18 October 2019. Space.com. http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-101819a-first-all-female-spacewalk.html.

Project PoSSUM. https://projectpossum.org/science-programs/possum-space-academy/

Weitering, Hanneke. “The 1st Human on Mars May Be a Woman, NASA Chief Says.” 19 October, 2019. Space.com. https://www.space.com/1st-human-on-mars-woman.html

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

March 26, 2019
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Cities: Singapore’s 3 Core Values

“Singapore Skyline at Night with Blue Sky.” Photographer: Merlion444. Image: wikimedia.

Singapore will mark its bicentennial this year, 2019, after celebrating its golden anniversary of independence in 2015. It was 200 years ago that two visitors rowed ashore to visit with a certain Sultan; Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles may not be enshrined by all, but still made a mark, including founding the Singapore Institution, one of the first global educational institutes. But many would say that Singapore’s core values were present long before either foundational event, and relate to openness as shaped by its extraordinary geography. Some historians cite Singapore’s three core values as:

Openness

Multiculturalism

Self-determination.

Not everyone would agree: for example, rights regarding sexual and gender orientation are still under trial, with relation and adoption key. Other concerns: water quality and deforestation threaten inclusion of the environment in future plans, but green building has been mandatory since 2008, influenced by Cheong Koon Hean, architect and urban planner.

Masjid Sultan, Singapore. Photographer: Terence Ong, 2008. Image: wikimedia.

Singapore’s recognition of many languages (Cantonese, English, Hokkien, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil) and faiths (observed in houses of worship such as the Buddhist Kuan Yin Temple, the Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple, the Sultan Mosque, and the Taoist Wak Hai Cheng Temple) may raise hope of an evolving culture of inclusion. If you are in Singapore during March 2019, you may participate in the Festival featuring heritage trails, and performances, and installations. Or, take a virtual trip, here.

“From Singapore to Singaporean.” https://www.bicentennial.sg

Cheong Koon Hean, “How we design and build a smart city and nation.” 17 December 2015. TEDx Talk. https://youtu.be/m45SshJqOP4

Galloway, Lindsey. “The three values that shaped Singapore.” 18 March 2019. BBC. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20190317-the-three-core-values-that-shaped-singapore/

Kolczak, Amy. “This City Aims to Be the World’s Greatest: As Singapore expands, a novel approach preserves green space.” 28 February 2017. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/urban-expeditions/green-buildings/green-urban-landscape-cities-Singapore/.

Koutsoukis, Jason. “Singapore Elite Backs Push to Overturn Anti-Gay Laws.” 2 October 2018, Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-02/singapore-elite-backs-push-to-overturn-country-s-anti-gay-laws.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

December 15, 2017
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Words and Swords

Word balloon types. Image: wikimedia commons.

Code talk and authorizations. What is the not-so-hidden code in a government directive that certain words or phrasing not be used in budget proposals, lest those words become swords killing the possibility of funding. Forbidden phrases: “science-based” and “evidence-based.” Word prohibitions include “diversity” and “vulnerable.” Authorizations throughout history have varied: some were a notes scrawled from parent to child, as in the Trans-Siberian Railway. Others were private handshakes made public, as in the New River. A few espoused values for the future of humanity: the Atomic Energy Act set the guiding purpose of peace. But de-authorizing certain code words by directive may be one of the few instances where values are so explicitly defined, and demanded. Summing up the reaction of many, Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, tweeted: “Here’s a word that’s still allowed: ridiculous.”

What do you think about “science-based” and “evidence-based?” What about the other directives? Can language ever be changed, or is it beyond directive? Abram de Swaan, of the Amsterdam School for Social Research, University of Amsterdam, observed that military conquests cause the spread of new wordings and even languages, but as soon as the newcomers are ousted, language returns to its natural evolution.

De Swaan, Abram. Words of the World: The Global Language System. Wiley 2013. ISBN: 9780745676982. Originally published, Polity Books, 2001.

Sun, Lena H. and Juliet Eilperin. “CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity.” 15 December 2017. The Washington Posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cdc-gets-list-of-forbidden-words-fetus-transgender-diversity/2017/12/15/f503837a-e1cf-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html?utm_term=.08926eab4d6a

https://www.cdc.gov

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

September 23, 2016
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Welcome

How can the world welcome 65 million people in new settings? Image: wikimedia commons.

The United Nations reports that 65.3 million people are refugees, asylum seekers or displaced: 1 in 113 of all the people on the planet. In the year 2015, every minute saw 24 people forced to flee; half under 18 years old. Conditions for millions are perilous. The first-ever United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants this week produced a Declaration, building upon the 1951 Refugee Convention that defines ‘refugee’ and the rights of the displaced. Education and employment are urgently needed. Can macro-scale infrastructure projects offer an opportunity? After World War II, Australia invited displaced skilled people to join the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Project; over 100,000 moved to a new land. Housing for families included schools where children learned together, adding diversity to the curriculum. How can the world welcome 65 million new arrivals today? Will Alex set an example of welcome?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

April 27, 2016
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Year of the Tree

Earth Day 2016 dedicates the year to planting more trees; 7.8 billion in the next five years. Image: wikimedia commons.

Earth Day is the largest secular observance in the world, having grown from “a national teach-in on the environment” in 1970, sponsored by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, in partnership with Pete McCloskey from Congress, and Denis Hayes of Harvard University: 20 million took to the streets to protest the abuse of, and protect the future of, the environment. Soon, the Environmental Protection Agency was founded; the Clean Air, Clean Water (amended in 1972 from an earlier version) and Endangered Species Acts were made law. In 1990, Nelson and Hayes took Earth Day global: 200 million in 141 countries united around the planet. Environmental provisions were part of the New River, built in England in 1609; the Canal des Deux Mers in France begun in 1666; and Boston’s Central Artery depressed underground while a Greenway graces the former traffic surface. Nature is an increasingly precious resource; 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service of the United States, including the Appalachian Trail. The theme for Earth Day 2016? Trees: 7.8 billion to be planted in the next five years. New England universities including Roger Williams may lead the way. Earth Day April 22 2016 also made history: the largest number of nations ever to sign an international agreement on the same day gathered for the Climate Signing Ceremony at the United Nations.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

August 19, 2015
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Singapore at 50

 

Singapore at 50: does diversity contribute to innovation and prosperity? Image: wikimedia commons.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Singapore‘s independence. Rapid growth may be traced to its founding, as a colony, but more importantly, as a special economic zone. With per capita GDP of $56,000, and 90% home ownership, an achievement aided by the development of Housing Development Board (HDB) homes, the 277 sq. miles are marked by prosperity. HDB helped to eliminate poverty and also promoted diversity: the goal was for Chinese and Malay families alike to think of themselves first as Singaporean. With four official languages, and multiple recognized religions, can Singapore claim the power of diversity in prosperity?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

October 12, 2014
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Way of Rights

Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, present at 1215 signing of Magna Carta. Image: wikimedia commons.

800 years ago, rights took a leap forward. Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, champion of human rights,  is credited with an influential role in the Magna Carta, or Great Charter. The agreement, accepted by “manus” (Latin for hand but meaning legal power, similar to handshaking on a deal) by King John at Runnymede, on June 15, 1215, gave birth to rule of constitutional law in England, and later the world, including the United States’ Constitution. Magna Carta, the Great Charter, along with other landmark documents including the Emancipation Proclamation, and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, visits Massachusetts in October. What are the evolving rights of the future? Will Bolivia lead the way?

About Magna Carta: http://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-english-translation

Magna Carta in Massachusetts: http://www.clarkart.edu/Exhibition/Magna-Carta.aspx

Bolivia and the Rights of the Earth:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/10/bolivia-enshrines-natural-worlds-rights

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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